Regardless of who you voted for in the election, Inauguration Day can be a stressful time that we aren’t usually prepared for because it only comes once every four years. When we are stressed are vital signs increase, sometimes to dangerous levels. How are you preparing to cope with the stress of an administration shift? How are you calming your nerves with the uncertainty of how others will respond to the new faces in the White House?
After conducting an informal survey (just me basically asking, “Hey how are you coping with this Inauguration thing?”) of Duke students on campus, Durham parents, random people walking down the road, and my family members, many of the responses were the same:
- drinking to either celebrate or forget
- purposely not watching it because of anxiety (Trump & Hilary supporters)
- huh? (and walked away or if I knew them, changed the subject).
Though as unprofessional and unreliable as this “questionnaire” was, it got me thinking about why we drink during this event or avoid it all together. And maybe those who had no idea what I was talking about are living in ignorant bliss (or maybe I creeped them out). Because you can be for Trump and still anxious about how the process will turn out or how the non-supports will respond, just as much as being anxious out of fear for the country or how Trump supporters may respond.
Why do we drink to celebrate or forget?
We drink alcohol during events that make us nervous to calm down our nerves or to tranquilize the chaos going on in our heads because of the anxiety, fear, or uncertainty because it is a depressant. Alcohol slows your heart rate, which in return slows respirations and depresses your blood pressure. This gives you the “relaxation”, but can be dangerous because you could “relax” yourself unconscious.
Drinking alcohol is also something we do to enjoy ourselves. But if alcohol is a depressant, why can it be fun and make people happy? Research shows that drinking alcohol releases the same chemicals in the brain as when you laugh at a joke or run on the treadmill. Your body releases endorphins, for example, when we laugh or exercise. These chemicals in our brain make us feel pleasure, and pleasure makes us happy. Alcohol triggers the same release of beta-endorphins, which are produced in the pituitary gland that is meant to suppress pain (another reason you may drink when you are sad).
Why we avoid events that make us anxious?
Whether you are for or against the inauguration of Trump, you might be avoiding watching, listening, or reading about the event because of your nerves. Avoiding situations that make us anxious is a natural human response, but unfortunately, it is what keeps us stuck in this state of anxiety. But it’s easier to avoid, right? It’s the “path of least resistance.” So we practice avoidance instead of challenging it head on, but mental health professionals will caution you to be mindful and start being proactive slowly. But the nurse in me believes that if you are triggered by the inauguration, don’t watch it. Don’t talk about it with anyone but a professional because I don’t want anyone in the ER tonight.
Holls Thomas is the founder of Operation No Shame. With a B.A. in Journalism and M.A. in Political Science from Eastern Illinois University, she is currently a nursing student at Duke University. She has a background in advocating and case management for domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. Her research focus at Duke is creative arts therapy.
Disclaimer: Operation No Shame’s goal is to be an online hub for self-help resources, education, awareness, and support. Individuals are encouraged to seek local mental health professionals for additional assistance. Operation No Shame in no way takes the place of a licensed art therapist, counselors of any sort, or medical providers. Although Operation No Shame may not be a mandated reporter, any abuse allegations will be reported appropriately to DCFS or Adult Protected Services. The National Suicide Hotline is 800-273-8255. There is no shame in reaching out for help. There is no shame in needing to talk about it.